As the clock continues to turn towards autumn the growing anticipation towards the beginning of the college football season is near the boiling point. Fans won’t have to wait much longer to quick their blood-thirst for gridiron battle and the non-conference match-ups that highlight the beginning of the season for many Big 12 schools will be epic, with some of them even having potential playoff implications.
Here’s our list of the Top 10 Non-Conference games featuring Big 12 schools.
10. Iowa State at Iowa, September 10 | The Cyclones lost their in-state rivalry 31-17 last year at home. Now first-year ISU head coach Matt Campbell takes to the road to take on the Hawkeyes and 13 returning starters from last season’s 12-2 squad.
9. Kansas State at Stanford, September 2 | Typically you’ll find Bill Snyder’s squad on the list of worst non-conference games but this year The Wizard steps out of the mold a bit and opens the season on the road against a Cardinal team that returns 16 starters from last season, including Heisman front-runner Christian McCaffrey. It’ll be a far cry from the opener against South Dakota last year.
8. Texas Tech at Arizona State, September 10 | The 2016 season is going to be an important one for Kliff Kingsbury. He’s guided Texas Tech to a 19-19 record in three seasons and needs to be over .500 at the end of the year if he expects to get to season five. The last time the Sun Devils played a school from the Big 12 was a 43-42 loss to West Virginia in the Cactus Bowl last December.
7. Texas at California, September 17 | The Longhorns make our list twice and both are winnable games for a program that’s struggled under Charlie Strong for the last two seasons. Cal has only four returning starters on offense and will be new at just about every skill position. Texas may have to make this an ugly game to win it and their defense can do just that.
6. TCU vs. Arkansas, September 10 | Gary Patterson’s teams are usually stacked on defense and with seven returning starters on that side of the ball 2016 shouldn’t be any different. The big question mark here is offense where the Frogs return only two starters from a year ago. On the flip-side of things the Razorbacks return nine starters on defense and three on offense from 2015. Needless to say, these two teams are going to learn a lot about themselves and each other on the second week of the season.
5. Oklahoma State vs. Pitt, September 17 | In their final tuneup before conference play begins, Mason Rudolph and the OSU offense will take a crack at a Pitt defense that allowed just 214.7 passing yards per game in 2015 and is returning seven starters from a squad that went 8-5.
4. West Virginia vs. BYU, September 24 | There are two sets of Cougars petitioning the Big 12 for membership and both with get a shot at taking on a conference member at a “neutral site.” Skyler Howard may be the most underrated quarterback in the Big 12 but he’ll have an opportunity to make a statement against a stingy Cougars pass defense that returns seven starters from a year ago.
3. Oklahoma vs. Houston, September 3 | Buckle up for this one! Two of the nation’s most potent offenses will go at each other to open up the Houston Texans’ new NRG Stadium. Baker Mayfield and company are eyeing a return to the College Football Playoff while Greg Ward Jr. and Chance Allen look to build on their 2015 success.
2. Texas vs. Notre Dame, September 4 | The eyes of Texas are most definitely on Charlie Strong and the outcome of this game will determine the type of emotion that will be held in that gaze. Longhorn fans have been patient with Strong over his first two seasons but season three must produce the type of results that will put the program back on the national stage. A win over the Irish will most likely return Texas to the Top 25 polls but a loss could mark the beginning of the end for Strong.
1. Oklahoma vs. Ohio State, September 17 | It’ll be the biggest show in college football that day and will no doubt have playoff implications due to the potential of it being a Top 5 match-up. The Sooners are stacked on offense and the Buckeyes are reloading on both sides of the ball. One thing is for sure though, you never doubt an Urban Meyer coached team, especially with a quarterback like J.T. Barrett. This one will be all out war!